News from Patrick Flynn

Port committee update, third edition

The next meeting of the Assembly’s Port committee will take place on Tuesday, August 10, from 10 am to noon at City Hall in the first floor conference room (suite 155).  The agenda will be as follows:

1. Updated project schedule:

a. Port/ICRC/MARAD update on project timeline and projected effects on Port users.

b. Army Corps of Engineers comments related to dredging.

c. Port user comments.

2. Review and discussion of project budget distributed at June 10 meeting.

3. Synopsis of port-related discussions at the recent joint work session of the Anchorage & Mat-Su Assemblies (this item may go first).

By the time we convene it will have been about two months between meetings and it’s reasonable for readers to ask why.  The answer, quite simply, is that the myriad of agencies associated with the Port expansion project are working to address a variety of issues.  To illustrate, below is an abridged e-mail exchange between myself and the US Army Corps of Engineers:

From: Flynn, Patrick P.
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 10:55 AM
To: Churchill, E Allen POA

Good morning Allen,

We are beginning to assemble our agenda for the next Port Committee meeting and my colleagues have expressed interest in an update on TOTE’s request for additional dredging near their temporary berth at the North Extension.  Do you have any additional information on this matter?  If nothing has changed since we last met, is there any likelihood that new information will develop in the next couple weeks?


Patrick Flynn


From: Churchill, E Allen
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 12:25 PM
To: Flynn, Patrick P.
Cc: Coullahan, Patrick M POA; Anderson, Julie L POA


Not much has changed since we last met.  The Port shared a draft phasing plan dated 6-22-2010 with us a couple weeks ago indicating we could be in the current dock configuration for several more years.  It shows the new TOTE berth being operational around the 2012 to 2013 time frame and center replacement area (existing dock) occurring in the 2021 time frame. We’ve requested the sheetpile wall offsets from ICRC so we can assess our abilities to dredge near the barge berth but have not been given a date on when that information will be received.  A meeting has been tentatively scheduled between the Corps, Port, ICRC, and MARAD for the first week of August to discuss our maintenance capability on the north end for TOTE.

We don’t like the 6-22-2010 phasing plan.  Our recommendation to the Port/ICRC is to do everything possible to get TOTE operational on the new fill at the location where the Horizon vessel is scheduled to go, and let their current berth shoal in.  We should be able to continue to keep Horizon’s current berth operational since it has been impacted very little these past two winters when we didn’t have maintenance dredging going on.  At such time when funding comes forth, the Port could then demo the old TOTE berth (Terminal 3) and then finalize Horizon’s new berth; all before any work is done on the south extension.  This would eliminate the need to expand the dredging to the north altogether and eliminate the winter dredging needs in the Terminal 3 area.  Additionally, what many folks don’t realize is that the shoaling pattern we currently see in Terminal 3 is also going to exist in the far north corner where the Port wants us to expand our dredge area for TOTE; so the winter dredging problem doesn’t go away with the move as currently shown.  Giving TOTE the whole north extension area to “roam” mitigates this problem as well.  Hope this helps.


In other words, part of the reason we’re taking our time getting back together is that we want the various agencies to talk through their concerns so we receive updates on the extent of their agreements (and disagreements).  For example, I can already fathom some concerns from port administrators and users about the approach advocated in Mr. Churchill’s note and it’s best to get those on the table for internal discussion prior to our meeting.

Readers may have also seen several comments in response to other posts on this topic.  To summarize, they’ve roughly fallen into three categories:

  • How much will the Port expansion project cost/how will we pay for it?
  • How confident are we in the design (open-cell sheet pile)?
  • What about reports of problems with the project?

Regarding costs and revenue sources, it’s tough to nail down a final cost because timelines keep shifting to later dates and the Port’s latest update only addressed the North Extension (where TOTE & Horizon are slated to have “vacation” homes while the remainder of the project is constructed).  Total cost to complete that phase is projected at $298 million and includes funding from the state ($100M) and federal ($138.4M) governments, Port funds ($40M, generated by user fees) and commercial paper (also known as debt, in the amount of $35).  Readers quick with math will note those fund sources are in excess of $298 million and the reason is two-fold: the debt is needed to maintain cash-flow to keep the project moving while awaiting appropriation and release of public funds, and the additional funds are slated to be dedicated to future project phases.  In any event committee members have further questions about this matter, including the stability of various fund sources, hence it being part of our agenda.

As to the design, the data we’ve received from project personnel indicate this is the largest application of this specific version of open-cell sheet pile technology (it was patented by a local engineering firm).  While I understand concerns that might invoke, I spoke with one of the project engineers I’ve known for many years and came away from that conversation comfortable that testing of completed phases indicate acceptable stability and safety.  I know it’s different than what many people are used to but it has worked in a variety of applications, both in Alaska and elsewhere.

Most of the problems folks have heard about involve various difficulties associated with driving sheet pile.  Those problems have occurred, much as many projects encounter bumps along the way (don’t get me started on my home-improvement efforts).  There are claim processes that have occurred or will occur between contractors and project managers to resolve the errata so, while everyone would obviously prefer a seamless process, that just isn’t how the world works.

That’s all for now, keep those comments and questions coming!



This contribution was made on Wednesday, 28. July 2010 at 06:12 and was published under the category Coming events, Port committee, Transportation. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Could you post links to maps & phasing plans etc. so those of us who don’t know Berth 1 from virgin birth could get a better idea of what is going on. Thx.

    Comment: Bob F – 30. July 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  2. Hey Pat,

    If you designed this monster wouldn’t you say everything was fine? Why not ask someone not involved with the “patented” design, someone that really understands sheet pile structures? I went to library and couldn’t find anything on these open cell dogees except with this PND bunch have plastered over the internet. This sounds like a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Glad no one down here on the Peninsula came up with an idea like this, but you Anchorage guys are better at getting that free money and free dredging.


    Comment: Moose Johnson – 31. July 2010 @ 4:18 am

  3. Pat,

    Those words “claims process” sound ominous! Is that where the contractor sues the Port for suitcases full of money and then retires to Miami to spend it on their big boats? This thing gets uglier by the minute. “Commercial Paper”, guess that’s what us poor folk call a loan. What are they using for collateral on that; maybe we can all be co-signers?? My house isn’t worth much but if enough of us co-sign they may be able to get more favorable rates; I can’t believe the Port’s credit rating for this project is that good. I bet a lot of the federal bureaucrats involved in this are starting to seek shelter. Hope they come up with something good soon. My father told me that sometimes the best thing to do is admit you were wrong and stop, but these guys may not be as smart as my dad………………..Randy

    Comment: Randy Mann – 31. July 2010 @ 4:30 am

  4. Randy,

    You hit the nail on the head; what bureaucrats are going to risk their retirements on a project that has caught the “stink”? Man, I can see this baby on Front Line or that 60 Minutes show soon “Alaska Bridge to Nowhere Traded for Port of No Return”. Wow! I am starting to think they need to rethink this whole thing. I can’t imagine there’s enough of that free money to paper this over? By the way, the silvers should start showing up pretty soon down here Moose. Jump in that old pick-up and meet at the Soldotna Bridge when they do; I’ll bring the beer……..Moose

    Comment: Moose Johnson – 01. August 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  5. Pat, Thanks for addressing the comments. I’m still concerned about all three points.
    1. The funds available seem like they will pay $300M of the project but with all these change orders you talk about to fix the problems, there doesn’t seem to be enough to pay for that. I heard that this project wall already projected at almost $1 billion.
    2. I agree with Mr. Johnson about the need to talk to someone who doesn’t have a stake in the project, someone who is independant. Seems like when something this major goes wrong, it would be prudent to get a second opinion? If it was your doctor who botched your cancer surgury telling you “hey these kind of hiccups happen all the time in surgury, it’ll work itself out.”–wouldn’t you get a second opinion?
    3. That makes sense about change orders in construction happening all the time, like when they do a kitchen remodel and find your pipes have been leaking and you need new floor boards. That’s something that unless you paid for an inspection, nobody could’ve know was a problem until they start breaking into your wall. But, seems like if you do adequate studies and investigation first you can predict those problems. Didn’t they do those kind of studies before taking on this big expensive project?

    Comment: Shirley McCraken – 02. August 2010 @ 8:50 am

  6. I was down and F Street and a bunch of guys who seemed to know what they were talking about said this is not a simple little repair. I guess they have to dig the whole thing up and start over. No one knows how much it will cost yet because they don’t know how bad it is. I guess the whole dam thing moved out to sea something like 10 feet! It is all rolled over and bent at the bottom and some of the sheets are pulling apart. I guess the port made everyone who is working on it sign non disclosure statements. They really want to keep it quite. I am all for a good port project but this sounds fishy to me. When the government starts making things secret, watch out!

    I hope they fix this all under some type of warranty. If I bought a brand new pickup truck and the engine blew up on the way home from the dealer, well fine as long as they gave me a new one at no extra cost. I sure wouldn’t pay for anything since it is brand new.

    Rudy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 02. August 2010 @ 5:44 pm

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